For this discussion I found an interest in the gender bending “self-portraiture” of Claude Cahun. An added interest I later found about Cahun and her work came after googling her name; I found some articles about feminism in art that not only speak about Cahun and her feminist work, but also about Cindy Sherman’s art as well (Imagine that to my surprise). Cahun was one of first the 20th century (female) artists to dress herself up in an array of gender bending disguises and photographed herself in the name of art, from the time she was 16 with the collaborative assistance of her life partner (and step sister), Marcel Moore. Cahun had preferred to present herself as both object and subject for her own sexual fascinations, rather than a passive object (Claude Cahun, Self-Portrait, 1928, The Guerilla Girls’
Beside Companion to the History of Western Art, page 62)
to be consumed by the “male gaze.” Claude’s work was scandalous to everyone including the homophobic, surrealist men she hung out with, as she paved her own path towards liberation; could Cahun and Moore have been the first two Guerilla Girls’ of the 20th century?
Yes, I do feel that woman’s artwork is read in a gender-based way, while men’s is mainly looked at in terms of its content and statement. Claude Cahun’s artwork is looked at as scandalous and pornographic; the surrealists wrote her out of their history. On the contrary the surrealists could appreciate that of Rrose Selavy, the avant-garde alter ego of Marcel Duchamp; a male artist disguised as a woman for art’s sake. Claude Cahun’s gender most definitely comes into play when interpreting and studying her work, as well as her sexual identity. Cahun disrupts restrictive ideas about gender, social prescriptions and femininity.
The fact that has surprised me throughout the study of art history is that only the art of white, European affiliated men held any merit. Meaning, the art itself was...